Hooray for Harissa (and Soup)!

This holiday I was the lucky recipient of some fabulous cookbooks.  As I unwrapped these gems I promised myself I would take advantage of my gifts and add new recipes to my weekly repertoire. Last weekend I woke up on a mission and I can report to all of you:  mission complete.  I chose the cookbook Plenty More and flipped through, cover to cover, trying to decide which recipe(s) to try first.  I chose three and made them all.  This spicy chickpea soup with bulgur and feta paste was my favorite; my office mates (and husband) will attest that it is delicious!

NOTE:  The recipe below has been slightly adapted from the original recipe in the book.

Spicy Chickpea Soup with Bulgur

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 3/8-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 3/8-inch dice
2 tablespoons harissa paste, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander
2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups drained cooked chickpeas (canned are fine)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup coarse bulgur wheat
salt and black pepper

Feta Paste:
3 1/2 ounces feta cheese, broken into large chunks
1/4 cup crème fraîche (you can easily use Greek yogurt instead)
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves
Salt

Directions:
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring well. Gently stir the chickpeas into the vegetable mixture--you don't want them to break down--along with salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until veggies are cooked through.

Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur, put in a small saucepan, and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook  for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender. Immediately remove from the heat. Drain, refresh under cold water, drain again and set aside.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and blitz for a couple of minutes, until a smooth, creamy paste forms.  (You can make this ahead and keep in the fridge until needed.)

Before serving, add the cooked bulgur to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer. Divide the soup among bowls, add a spoonful of feta paste to each bowl, and serve at once.

-Rachel

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